Office of Science Quality and Integrity

USGS Information Quality Guidelines

Table of Contents

I. Introduction
II. USGS Mission and Vision
     1. Mission
     2. Vision
III. Guidelines
     1. Overview of USGS Information Quality Guidelines
     2. USGS Data Collection and Research
     3. USGS Review and Approval Process
     4. Paperwork Reduction Act
     5. Third-Party Data
IV. Information Correction Requests
     1. Administrative Process
     2. Requirements
     3. Evaluation
     4. Appeal Procedure
V. Requests and Responses
VI. Information Quality - USGS Peer Review Agenda

 

I. Introduciton

In the Information Quality Act, Congress directed the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to issue government-wide guidelines that “provide policy and procedural guidance to Federal agencies for ensuring and maximizing the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information (including statistical information) disseminated by Federal agencies” (Public Law No. 106–554, § 515(a)). OMB’s Guidelines for Ensuring and Maximizing the Quality, Objectivity, Utility, and Integrity of Information Disseminated by Federal Agencies, published in the Federal Register on February 22, 2002 (67 FR 8452), directs agencies subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act (44 USC 3502) to:

  • Issue guidelines ensuring and maximizing the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information (including statistical information) disseminated by their agency, no later than October 1, 2002.
  • Establish administrative mechanisms allowing affected persons to seek and obtain correction of information that does not comply with OMB guidelines.
  • Report to the Director of OMB the number and nature of complaints received by the agency regarding the accuracy of information and how such complaints were handled by the agency.

The policies and procedures provided constitute the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Information Quality Guidelines, which applies to all USGS information disseminated to the public on or after October 1, 2002. The OMB and the Department of the Interior (DOI) information quality guidelines, standards, and definitions will also apply to the USGS guidelines. 

  • Information disseminated prior to October 1, 2002, but not archived and still being used in a decision-making process is not exempt from these guidelines.
  • Information records disseminated from studies completed and archived before October 1, 2002 are exempt from the guidelines. Other information considered exempt from the USGS guidelines includes:
    • Information with distribution limited to agency employees, contractors or grantees;
    • Information intended for intra- or inter-agency use or communication, even if the information becomes public (for example, providing comments to another federal agency on its environmental impact statement);
    • Responses to requests for records under the Freedom of Information Act, the Privacy Act, the Federal Advisory Committee Act or other similar laws;
    • Correspondences with individuals;
    • Public filings;
    • Testimonies and other submissions to Congress;
    • Adjudicative proceedings;
    • Press releases, press conferences, or similar communications in any medium that announce, support the announcement, or give public notice of the availability of information USGS has or will disseminate or that summarize recent events or agency actions;
    • Draft and unpublished documents, data, and information distributed for the purpose of peer review (but that has not been formally disseminated by USGS);
    • Archival records, including library holdings;
    • Information distributed by outside parties unless the distribution was conducted at the direction or sponsorship of the USGS;
    • Information accessed via hyperlinks to non-USGS web sites; and
    • Distributions of information by outside parties unless a disclaimer is attached explaining that the information is an official USGS view or position.

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    II. USGS Mission and Vision

    1. Mission
    The USGS serves the Nation by providing reliable scientific information to describe and understand the Earth; minimize loss of life and property from natural disasters; manage water, biological, energy, and mineral resources; and enhance and protect our quality of life.

    2. Vision
    The USGS is a world leader in the natural sciences through its scientific excellence and responsiveness to society's needs.

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    III. Guidelines

    1. Overview of USGS Information Quality Guidelines
    The USGS provides unbiased, objective scientific information upon which other entities may base judgments. Since its inception in 1879, the USGS has maintained comprehensive internal and external procedures for ensuring the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of data, analyses, and scientific conclusions. These Information Quality Guidelines cover all information produced by the USGS in any medium, including data sets, web pages, maps, audiovisual presentations in USGS-published information products, or in publications of outside entities. These guidelines provide an administrative process for persons to seek correction of information maintained and disseminated by the USGS that they believe is in error. Factors, such as imminent threats to public health or homeland security, statutory or court-ordered requirements, or other circumstances beyond our control, may limit or preclude applicability of these guidelines.

    These guidelines are intended to improve the management of the USGS activities related to compliance with the OMB information quality requirements. Nothing in these guidelines is intended to create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable by law or equity by a party against the United States, its agencies, its offices, or any other person. These guidelines do not provide any right to judicial review.

    2. USGS Data Collection and Research
    USGS data collection and research activities are carried out in a consistent, objective, and replicable manner that has been vetted through a vigorous and open process of peer review to ensure that the best possible results are achieved and that there are no weaknesses or errors in the data or conclusions. USGS scientific information is subject to a high degree of transparency about the data and methods used to facilitate the reproducibility of such information by other qualified scientists. Data collected for publication must be documented to describe the methods or techniques used to collect, process, and analyze data; the structure of the output; description of accuracy and precision; standards for metadata; and quality assurance processes. If access to data and methods cannot occur due to compelling interests such as privacy, trade secret, intellectual property, and other confidentiality protection, USGS will, to the extent practicable, verify information and documents to ensure that quality assurance steps were taken (refer to SM 502.2).

    3. USGS Review and Approval Process
    USGS information is published in many media. Due to the scientific nature of the information, it passes through many quality assurance reviews, including rigorous peer review, prior to approval and release to ensure the reliability, objectivity, and integrity of the information. These review and approval standards and requirements are available at SM 502.3 and SM 502.4.

    4. Paperwork Reduction Act
    All USGS offices will apply OMB's Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) clearance process to help improve the quality of information that the bureau collects and disseminates to the public. All proposed PRA clearance submissions to OMB should demonstrate that the proposed collection of information will result in information that will be collected, maintained, and used in a manner consistent with the OMB and DOI quality guidelines.

    5. USGS Third-Party Data
    The USGS takes steps to ensure that the quality and transparency of data and information provided by external sources are sufficient for the intended use. Reference to and use of third party data and information is complex and requires extensive collaboration with the scientific and technical community and other external data providers. Third-party data may carry inherent accuracy weaknesses in that the data content often cannot be checked nor their accuracy controlled. In instances where the referenced information is not verifiable, the source will be made transparent to the public, and such information will not be subject to these guidelines.

    Metadata (information that characterizes and describes data, including how, when, and by whom the data were collected) are one tool used by the USGS to maximize information quality, utility, objectivity, and transparency of third-party data. Metadata plays a key role in describing the specific quality procedures that were followed, as well as documenting methods and techniques used in studies. USGS conforms to established national and international standards for metadata, such as the Federal Geographic Data Committee Geospatial Metadata Standards.

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    IV. Information Correction Requests

    1. Administrative Process
    Information correction requests should be addressed to the Director, Office of Science Quality and Integrity (OSQI), U.S. Geological Survey, MS 911 National Center, Reston VA 20192 and emailed to InfoQual@usgs.gov. The OSQI coordinates the USGS process for complying with information quality guidelines for scientific information and data, and maintains the official records on each request. The OSQI will forward the request or inquiry to the appropriate USGS office (generally the originating office responsible for the information product being challenged).

    The USGS office receiving the request will copy the OSQI on all correspondence related to the request and will collaborate with the OSQI throughout the process of responding to it, including to obtain the appropriate reviews of the draft response prior to it being approved and submitted to the complainant. In addition, the OSQI or the receiving USGS office, in coordination with OSQI, will maintain a temporary public Web page titled "Information Quality - Information Correction Request" to clearly indicate receipt of an information correction request related to information disseminated by the USGS. The page will contain documentation related to the request, including (1) a link to the published USGS information product that is the subject of the request; (2) a link to the complainant’s request; (3) a link to the final USGS response to the request (including any supporting material, for example a news release); and (4) a link to the USGS Information Quality Website.

    Upon closing of a request (after all USGS responses are complete, including the response to an appeal request), the content from the temporary Web page will be transferred to an archive Web page listing of all Information Quality Correction Requests and USGS Responses, and the temporary page will be removed.

    The OSQI will prepare annual reporting for submission to the DOI that describes the number, nature, and resolution of requests that the USGS receives for each fiscal year.

    2. Requirements
    A request for information correction must include the following:

    • A written statement that the person is seeking correction of information disseminated by the USGS and the specific reasons for believing the information is in error for failure to meet information quality standards, along with supporting documentation.
    • The name, mailing address, telephone number, email address (if applicable), and organizational affiliation (if any) of the individual making the correction request. Organizations submitting a correction request should identify one individual to serve as the primary contact.
    • The complainant should use the subject line, "Request for Correction of Information submitted under USGS Information Quality Guidelines," so that it may be clearly recognized by those managing the process.
    • A detailed description of the specific information in question, including where the information is located (such as, publication title, date, and number (if any), or the Web site address).
    • A description of how the person submitting the correction request is affected by the USGS information believed to be in error.
    • The specific recommendations for corrective action.

    3. Evaluation and Response
    Within 10 business days, the OSQI will notify the complainant of receipt of their information correction request. The appropriate office will evaluate the request in question and prepare the response. If the USGS determines that the correction request is without merit, the complainant will be so notified. If the USGS determines that the correction request has merit, the complainant will be notified of this finding and of the corrective steps proposed. Generally, within 90 calendar days of receipt, USGS will issue a response to the complainant. The timing for evaluating an information correction request and issuing the USGS response may change based on factors such as the complexity involved, impact on science, or level of coordination needed. If USGS determines additional time is needed, the complainant will be informed and if possible, will be given an estimated response date. The USGS will also determine the schedule and procedure for correcting any challenged information that it deems is in error.

    A second correction request received on the same subject, before the USGS issues a final response to the first request will be considered simultaneously with the first request. The second complainant will be notified within 10 business days that an overlapping evaluation is in progress and be advised of its status. The first and any subsequent correction requests will be combined and the timing for issuing the USGS response to all parties will follow that for the first correction request received.

    If a second correction request on the same subject is received any time after the USGS has issued a response to a previous request, then the second correction request will require a new 90 calendar day schedule for issuing a USGS response. Unless substantial new information has been submitted, the USGS response to the earlier request shall suffice.

    4. Appeal Procedure
    If complainants are dissatisfied with the USGS response to their information correction request, they may appeal the decision to the Director. Appeal requests should be addressed to the Director, U.S. Geological Survey, 12201 Sunrise Valley Drive, MS 101 National Center, Reston, VA 20192 and emailed to InfoQual@usgs.gov.

    Appeals requesting reconsideration of the response decision must be received by USGS within 21 calendar days of the date of the USGS response to the original correction request and must contain the following:

    • A written statement indicating that the person is seeking an appeal of a USGS decision on a previously submitted information correction request, including the date of the original submission and date of the USGS response.
    • Name, mailing address, telephone number, email address (if applicable), and organizational affiliation (if any), of the individual submitting the appeal. Organizations submitting an appeal should identify one individual as the primary contact.
    • The complainant should use the subject line, “Appeal to the USGS Response to a Request for Correction of Information submitted under USGS Information Quality Guidelines,” so that it may be clearly recognized by those managing the process.
    • An explanation of why the appealing individual or organization disagrees with the USGS decision, and if possible, a recommendation of corrective action.
    • A copy of the original information correction request and the original USGS response.

    Within 10 business days, the OSQI will notify the complainant of receipt of their appeal request. The OSQI will provide the appeal request to the appropriate offices and will coordinate the appeal process similarly to the process for addressing initial information correction requests. USGS will decide, on a case-by-case basis, the method to use in evaluating an appeal to determine whether it has merit. For example, USGS may consult internally/externally with technical experts, scientific literature, and other resources; convene a panel consisting of Directorate-level officials from the USGS and, when available, another DOI agency such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; or use other methods that are deemed appropriate by USGS. Those evaluating the appeal will make an objective recommendation to the Director, USGS, who will make the final decision on the appeal.

    If the USGS determines that the appeal request is without merit, the complainant will be so notified. If the USGS determines that the appeal request has merit, the USGS will notify the complainant of this finding and include corrective steps proposed. The Director, USGS or a designated representative thereof, will issue a response to the appeal, generally within 90 calendar days of receipt. If USGS determines additional time is needed the complainant will be informed and if possible, given an estimated response date. The USGS will determine the schedule and procedure for correcting any appeal-challenged information that it has deemed is in error. The appeal and response documents will be posted on the same web page that contains documentation about the original information correction request.

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    V. Requests and Responses

    1. Open (pending) requests/appeals
    FY 2018:
    USGS Response to the Department of the Interior, Office of Inspector General Final Evaluation Report-Evaluation of USGS Scientific Collection Management Policy, Report No. 2016-ER-57 (September 2017)
     

    2. Archived (completed) requests/appeals
    FY 2004 to Present:
    Information Quality Correction Requests and USGS Responses (Archive)

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    VI.  Information Quality - USGS Peer Review Agenda

    In December 2004, the OMB issued the Final Information Quality Bulletin for Peer Review. The Bulletin, issued under the Information Quality Act and OMB’s general information quality authorities, establishes requirements regarding peer review of scientific information disseminated to the public by the Federal Government, which is defined by OMB as “influential scientific information” and "highly influential scientific assessments.” Visit the USGS Peer Review Agenda.

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